Will hip-hop performers make it to the golden ages? For the past two nights, any eye-witness at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York City would say so. Accompanying greats from Dvořák, Booker T. Washington, Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and a continuous list of inspirations for centuries to come, hip-hop performer and mogul Jay-Z took the stage as the first headlined rapper ever, with an accompanied symphony and suit.
Hip-hop sprouted in the 1970s. 40 years later, (today) it’s no question that it’s here to stay for some time. The question is, who of our legends will last in it for 50 years or more? Is it possible? The New York Times recently posted this slideshow of four of the most notable rock bands that have; The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, El Gran Combo and the Chieftans all debuted in 1962, and are still going strong in 2012.
Jay-Z made his national debut in 1995, making this year his 16th year of music and success. Previous rival, present friend and confidant, Nas, debuted in 1993, making this year his 18th anniversary. Accompanying Jay-Z at Carnegie Hall for a few performances, the two are internationally highly-ranked and acclaimed entertainers. But another thing they share, is that they both considered leaving rap. Nas once admitted that he never imagined it would be possible to make a full-time career out of it, and Jay-Z famously announced a retirement before recanting it less than a year later.
Performers such as KRS-One, Ice Cube, and Rakim have lasted even longer, but we have yet to see what may come as age grows older. Some legendary fathers of hip-hop are still around, but do not quite have the same reach. While some may still make music, dj, make appearances, or have moved on to other ventures, they have not remained a reckoning force in the industry as some greats in other musical genres. Is hip-hop so influenced by the culture that it’s almost impossible for rappers to keep their audience and gain the respect of the new generations at the same time? Or will hip-hop audiences grow and expand with their musical leaders?
Jay-Z and Nas are acclaimed today for having grown with their audience. And are still respected nearly 20 years later because of their willingness to keep it youthful while keeping it mature at the same time. But once we’re all 50, 60, 70 years old, will they be around as a new-day Johnny Cash for hip-hop? If this shift in hip-hop allows space for the young and reckless as well as the experienced and aging, hip-hop will make it to the Golden Ages era too. Carnegie Hall was a great stepping stone, but we still have about 30 years left for time to tell…
What do you think?